Emerald Isle, NC | 2018

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A few weeks ago we spent our fifth vacation in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The weather ended up being PERFECT! It was actually less humid in North Carolina than it was back at home in Maryland. The sun shown everyday, the breezes were strong, and the waves were delightful.

This year Ava really came into her own at the beach. She screamed with delight with every wave she jumped and loved going out past the waves with Josh where it was calmer--she wasn't scared at all!

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We spent everyday out on the beach. Other years we've needed a mid-week break or there's been at least one rainy day, so we've visited the aquarium or something like that. This year it was beach time all the time. We also had movie nights, went to Beaufort for ice cream and to look at the boats, got seafood takeout, and did LOTS of bike riding.

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We also did our annual family photoshoot on the beach the last evening we were there. It's so neat to have these picture to put in our Blurb books every year and see how the kids have grown and changed.

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There was a sea turtle clutch on the beach and the sea turtle volunteers had roped off the area to protect the site. They were having a "sea turtle party" to watch for the turtles to emerge. The eggs would have already have hatched and the turtles were building up strength to dig out of the sand and make their long trek to ocean. Our last evening there they hadn't yet emmerged but they were hopeful that night would be the one!

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Emerald Isle, thanks for another great year!

Cromwell Valley Park

A few Sundays ago we took advantage of the perfect weather to visit Cromwell Valley Park. We have been there multiple times, but this time, we went to hike the orienteering course, which uses compass and map skills to follow a trail that pretty much takes you all over the main aspects of the park.

Of course, when you start a hike everyone is excited and exuberant! 

The building are quite lovely with some walled gardens. The Willow Grove farm house contains the nature center, where we saw live animals like snakes, birds, chicks, and turtles. I particularly love the Apple House. Apparently, this building was used as a "finishing room" when there were apple and peach orchards on the property. It is in this space the fruit was boxed and then transported to be sold along the waterfront and in stalls in Baltimore City.

The Lime Kilns were in the midst of being refurbished, which was neat to see. There are three kilns and the oldest was probably in operation from 1785 onward.

The kids had a blast playing in the Nature Discovery Zone, which had a sandbox, playhouse structure, and see-saw.

It definitely was a fun day of exploring and hiking in nature. We're definitely planning on packing a lunch and going back and spending more time playing in the stream sometime soon!

Ladew Topiary Gardens

2016-05-14_001 On Mother's Day this year we visited Ladew Topiary Gardens. We had experienced a ceaseless string of cool, rainy days, so we were excited that Mother's Day dawned warm and sunny, allowing us to spend a whole afternoon exploring Ladew's expansive gardens.

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The kids loved all the little fountains and pools.

One was stocked with big colorful koi and we discovered a snake sunning himself on the rocks near another pond.

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The azaleas were in full bloom. I think I loved the Japanese-inspired gardens the best. The shrubs cut like a boat in the middle of a little island with red sails was so whimsical!

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My mom joined us for our visit, which was perfect since she loves gardens so much.

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This topiary above was shaped to look like a dog house with a dog leashed to it. It was a big hit with the kids!

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The building above was a tea house! It reminded me of something out of Pride and Prejudice where some rich Regency family would have tea that the servants would prepare after a turn in the gardens.

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How cool is this topiary giraffe?

There is a house one can tour as well. I toured it the last time I visited, some 10 plus years ago. This time we did not. I would love to visit Ladew as the seasons change. Perhaps we can visit again in the summer when the roses are in bloom?

NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores + Beaufort

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We spent most of our days on vacation at the beach, except for two excursions. One was to Beaufort, famous for its connection with Blackbeard the Pirate. We enjoyed visiting the Maritime Museum again and seeing the exhibition on The Queen Anne's Revenge and her famous captain, Blackbeard. We also visited the unique Old Burying Ground, which I went into much more detail on in this post during our last trip. It is such a charming town with an old-fashioned feel. Josh and I snuck in a date night out to dinner one evening there too.

The other excursion was to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. It is a small but lovely aquarium. Since we were there last, they now also have an outdoor play area!

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We even got to touch stingrays!

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The boys were particularly thrilled about the Venom exhibition! If you ever visit the Emerald Isle area, we highly recommend a trip to the aquarium and Beaufort!

Emerald Isle, NC | 2015

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The ocean. It makes me feel alive. It invites me to rest. It had been two years since our family had vacationed at the beach and in September we once again headed to Emerald Isle, NC to put our feet in the sand.

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We rested. We ate well. We read books and watched movies. We took walks and gathered shells. We battled waves and floated on our backs.

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We took the annual "last night on the beach pictures" that are always so fun to capture!

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Equal parts sweetness and sass, that's our Sophia.

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Gosh, I love these boys. We've made it so far! I remember thinking someday we were going to make it to age 8 and here we are! Crazy how far away these days feel.

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And now we have this little darling joining in with all the fun!

My mom joined us for vacation this year. I just adore this candid shot of her with Ava!

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The last days of summer come to a close.

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The End of Summer

We left summer behind when we drove away from our vacation spot, Emerald Isle, NC, and now it is autumn! But I wanted to share with you our last taste of summer living. We had the most perfect weather imaginable and spent every single day on the beach except for one, when we visited Beaufort, NC, which was a few towns away. This year my mom joined us and we had a great time. Unfortunately, Sophia was a little under the weather and reacted badly to her medication, but despite that, it was still a wonderful getaway from the normal grind.

This was our daily "commute" to the beach:

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These next three images I love. The rippling water, the moon, and the reflected sky in the surf.

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I especially loved some early morning time by myself on the beach.

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One day was spent in Beaufort visiting the historic sites, of which there are many. The town is picturesque and quaint. First, we enjoyed Beaufort's Maritime Museum. The kids did a scavenger hunt provided by museum staff and we enjoyed looking at the artifacts from the wreckage of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge.

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The highlight of Beaufort was the "Old Burying Ground." The site takes up almost a whole block and is flanked on four corners by four different churches. It holds much history and some crazy stories. Take the story of Nancy Mannery French (1821-1886), taken from the pamphlet we got from the visitor's center:

"Nancy  loved Charles French, her tutor. Her father opposed the romance. Charles went away to seek his fortune and vowed to return for Nancy. He went to the territory of Arizona and became a chief justice. The postmaster of Beaufort, a friend of Nancy's father, intercepted the correspondence between the two. His conscience drove him, before his death, to confess to Nancy what he had done. As an old man, Charles still not able to forget Nancy, returned to Beaufort and found her, whose love had never faltered, dying of "consumption". The couple married and a few weeks later Nancy died."

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Below left is the resting place of a little girl who died at sea. Her father couldn't bear to leave her body behind, but brought her home to her mother in a barrel of rum, in which she is buried.

Below right had no details in the pamphlet, but upon reading the headstones, it broke my heart to see the five children of Caroline Jones buried beside each other in a neat row. All had died four years old and under. It seems perhaps they had no children that lived past the age of four, unless they are buried else where.

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We drove by the "Hammock House" which is a private home, so it cannot be toured. However, it's the oldest known house in Beaufort and supposedly Blackbeard may have spent some time there.

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Josh and I also got a date night out, thanks to my mom! We went to Beaufort and checked out the shops and enjoyed looking at the boats and water. We ate an amazingly delicious meal at Old Salt. They took simple ingredients and made them scrumptious! We started off with clams in broth, bacon, and beer. Oh yum! Then we had simple salad with house blue cheese dressing that was delish. I had pulled-pork BBQ tacos topped with cole slaw, fries, and their house "Old Salt sauce." I wish I could have bought some of that sauce home with me! I don't often wax eloquent on fries either, but their brined fries dipped in that sauce was to die for! We finished off the meal with pound cake drizzled with a raspberry sauce, whipped cream, and topped with more fruit. If you're ever in Beaufort, you must eat there!

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Next week I'll be sharing our family pictures we took one evening on the beach!

Oregon Ridge

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Last week we went to Oregon Ridge's Maple Syrup weekend and Nature Center. We LOVE maple syrup in our family, eating it drizzled on cream of wheat or oatmeal many winter mornings. I thought it would be fun to learn a bit more about how it's made.

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We got to taste sap right from Oregon Ridge's trees!

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And play around and check out the Native American wigwam.

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We warmed up in the Nature Center, checking out the taxidermy animals, as well as the live snakes and turtles before settling down with some picture books. Definitely a fun little excursion!

Hampton Estate

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During the summer while listening to Where Lilacs Still Bloom on audiobook, I discovered a local treasure. I'd never heard of Hampton Estate at that point, and little did I know that such an amazing historic house was just a stone's throw away from me. Built in 1790 it was once the largest private home in the United States, it has an amazing history. Also, I did not realize the connection between the famous painting by Thomas Sully, Lady with a Harpnow hanging in the National Gallery of Art and the estate. I actually own a print of the painting and have always loved it.

In October we finally visited for the Family Fall Day. We enjoyed it so much and look forward to going back and spending even more time there. The house tour was so fascinating. The boys did a great job on their first hour-long tour of a historic home!

The property was once famous for its' gardens. Note the "orangery" below left. The family purchased orange trees and kept them in the climate controlled environment. You had to be wealthy to do that kind of thing back in the day!

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A copy of the famous painting of Eliza Ridgely, the Lady with a Harp (left) and the dinning room (right).

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The boys were SO excited to help make apple cider!

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Duncan and Owen begged to take pictures with my camera. Duncan took the top one below and Owen took the bottom one.

Pretty good, don't you think?

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Anniversary Getaway

Back in July we celebrated 8 years of marriage. We managed to plan in a weekend getaway, which almost didn't happen! At the last-minute, the bed and breakfast we'd booked weeks before ended up having a flooding issue so we had to quickly find a new place to book. Thankfully, we were able to secure lodgings, so the trip was on! I've wanted to share our little trip since then, but client images have taken priority and I've only just now found the time to go through them and post them here.

We went to Lititz, Pennsylvania. I'd been to Lititz many times, but not very often as an adult in recent years. We spent Saturday visiting the little shops and Wilbur Chocolate.

We enjoyed touring the Lititz Historical Foundation and learning more about the town's Moravian past.

I also didn't realize that John Sutter lived his later years in Lititz, after his land was overrun during the California Gold Rush. Sadly, he basically lost all his land during the Gold Rush and came to Lititz, in part, to be closer to Washington, D.C. so he could  petition Congress for the restitution of his land. This didn't happen. However, after his death, the U.S. government decided they should at least do something for him, since he lost his land and all, and ended up placing slabs of marble around his grave. Strange but true.

For dinner we enjoyed Tomato Pie Cafe. It was a charmingly homey place and the Tomato Pie was delicious. We ate outside on their lovely patio, enjoying the summer evening. Another cafe we enjoyed during our visit was Cafe Chocolate.

After our dinner at Tomato Pie Cafe, we walked around Lititz Springs Park, also full of history.

We also decided on a whim to drive to Elizabethtown, PA, to check out the town and farm I lived from around the age of eight to twelve years old. Some of my fondest memories are anchored here. . . .

Memories of exploring the creek banks and fields. The smell of silage, hay, and cows. Feeding calves, helping herd heifers, assisting with the birth of a calf and feeling the solemn responsibility of it. Memories of our huge garden and learning to cut the grass with the riding mower. Reading The Happy Hollisters, The Sugar Creek Gang, and the Mandie series under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep. The various dogs and cats that made our lives so companionable like Sheba, the Irish Setter, and Smokey Grey, the fierce tomcat.

This is also the home where I really knew I loved to write. I spent many afternoons churning out "novels." Nubs of pencils attached to clipboards and sketchbooks becoming constant companions.

The trip was a wonderful respite amidst the busyness of work and life.

 

Emerald Isle, NC

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." -John Burroughs

When I found this quote it described perfectly how I felt about our week at the beach. Nothing is so soothing to me as the crash of waves and feel of sand between my toes. Time slows. I notice little things, like the glint of sun on sand slipping through my fingers.

The summer has been a crazy one, much more busy than I like or planned. We weren't sure if a vacation was going to happen this year, due to not knowing when Josh was going to start his new job. Things finally finalized and Josh took a week off in-between jobs. We scoured the internet looking for vacation deals. There weren't many still available or within our price range. Thankfully we got a tip from Josh's aunt to check out Emerald Isle, NC.

We had a wonderful time. It was so relaxing and refreshing after our busy months. Duncan kept saying over and over "I love my beach house!"

Snacks. They looks so exhausted after a morning in the surf and sand!

We took a big pile o' library books with us. The Napping House is a favorite. It also described our afternoons. I got several naps in during that week!

I never took my "real" camera down with me during the day. You'll have to wait for August's Instagrams for those pics. :) However, I did take it for our evening walks. Morning and evening on the beach are my favorite times of the day.

Glow sticks!

Yay for pictures with my kids!

Sophia LOVED the sand crabs and called them "bugs." She would grab a handful of sand and say "bug!" even if there was none there!

A fun part about the trip is some friends of ours decided spur of the moment to rent their own place the same week we did! It was fun to have them there!

Love these pictures of Sophia doing her rolls. She was screaming "Watch! Watch!"

Sophia shows some love to her friend, Anna. Which is a good thing, because she also has a penchant for hitting her. Maybe she was trying to make up for it.

We had such a wonderful time just to unplug from normal life. We took one rainy day to visit the aquarium. We had lazy mornings of pancakes and bacon. We watched cable TV in the evening (I love Food Network and HGTV). We had a movie night with our friends. A had an early morning to sneak out of the house and spend a sunrise alone. I read books, like The Peach Keeper (loved it), Paris in Love (so-so), and The Luminous Portrait as well as finished Kinfolk and few other random magazines. It wasn't perfect. The boys got sunburned lips that kept them from the water for a few days (major mommy fail). But all in all it was wonderful!